Students in an advanced business French class at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio watch French television news via satellite TV. They then peruse French online news groups to follow how French students are discussing a proposed minimum wage cutback. This helps them learn background cultural information about current events and attitudes in France, as well as the precise methods used by native French speakers for argumentation, persuasion, and negotiation (Scinicariello, 1995).
Intermediate ESL writing students at the University of Hawai'i use real-time computer-assisted discussion to gain additional writing practice in class. The written interaction fosters greater student participation and collaboration. In addition, the students join e-mail discussion groups in their own fields and also learn how to conduct research on the Web (Warschauer, 1999).
However, the recent enthusiasm for technology in language teaching?witnessed, for example, by the large numbers of presentations at national conferences on this topic?brings a sense of deja vu. Three decades ago, language programs were also enchanted by promises of magic through technology. That technology?the audio-based language laboratory?brought disappointing results (and, indeed, it is the audio-based labs which are often being replaced by computer labs today). Thus, before looking at the use of technology in language teaching today, it is worthwhile to take a brief historical look at technology in the language classroom.
In contrast, the audio-tape was the perfect medium for the audiolingual method (which emphasized learning through oral repetition). University language classes in the 1970s and '80s usually included obligatory sessions at the audio lab where students would perform the dreaded repetition drills.
By the late 1970s, the audiolingual method fell into disrepute, at least in part due to poor results achieved from expensive language laboratories. Whether in the lab or in the classroom, repetitive drills which focused only on language form and ignored communicative meaning achieved poor results.
The 1980s and 1990s have seen a shift toward communicative language teaching, which emphasizes student engagement in authentic, meaningful interaction. Within this general communicative trend, we can note two distinct perspectives, both of which have their implications in terms of how to best integrate technology into the classroom. These can roughly be divided into cognitive approaches and sociocognitive approaches.
Cognitive approaches to communicative language teaching are based on the view that learning a language is an individual psycholinguistic act. From this perspective, language learners construct a mental model of a language system, based not on habit formation but rather on innate cognitive knowledge in interaction with comprehensible, meaningful language (Chomsky, 1986). Errors are seen in a new light?not as bad habits to be avoided but as natural by-products of a creative learning process that involves rule simplification, generalization, transfer, and other cognitive strategies (see Chaudron, 1987). Learners' output (i.e., what they say or write), if relevant at all, is beneficial principally to the extent that it helps make input (i.e., what they hear or read) more comprehensible or salient so that the learners can construct their own cognitive models of the language.
Technologies which support a cognitive approach to language learning are those which allow learners maximum opportunity to be exposed to language in meaningful context and to construct their own individual knowledge. Examples of these types of technologies include text-reconstruction software, concordancing software, and multimedia simulation software.
Text-reconstruction software (e.g., NewReader from Hyperbole or Text Tanglers from Research Design Associates) allows teachers to provide students various texts in which letters or words are either missing or scrambled. Students work alone or in groups to complete or re-arrange the texts, thus supporting a process of mental construction of the linguistic system. While such activity could in theory be carried out with paper and pencil, the computer facilitates the process for both teachers and students. Teachers can quickly and easily create re-arranged texts or cloze exercises (i.e., texts with deleted words) from any original word-processed passage. Students can use hints provided by the computer to assist their learning process.
Concordancing software (e.g., Monoconc from Athelstan) allows teachers or students to search through small or large texts to look for instances of the actual use of particular words. Concordancers are thus supplements to dictionaries in that they help illustrate the usage of a word, rather than just its definition. Concordancers are also useful for investigating collocational meanings (e.g., "large box" vs. "big box," or "think about" vs. "think over") or grammatical features (e.g., "was going" vs. "used to go").
Multimedia simulation software allows learners to enter into computerized microworlds with exposure to language and culture in a meaningful audio-visual context. The best of these programs allow learners a good deal of control and interactivity so they can better manipulate their linguistic input. One excellent example of this is the multimedia videodisc program A la rencontre de Philippe developed by the Athena Language Learning Project at the M.I.T. Laboratory for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Philippe is a game for intermediate and advanced French learners that incorporates full motion video, sound, graphics, and text, allowing learners to "walk around" and explore simulated environments by following street signs or floor plans. To help language learners understand the sometimes challenging French, the program provides optional comprehension tools, such as a glossary and transcriptions of audio segments , as well as a video album that includes samples of language functions. Students can also create their own custom video albums, which they store on their own computer diskettes.
While text-reconstruction programs, concordancers, and multimedia simulations are often used in pairs or groups, the software programs by themselves do not require human-to-human interaction.
Sociocognitive approaches, in contrast to cognitive approaches, emphasize the social aspect of language acquisition; learning a language is viewed as a process of apprenticeship or socialization into particular discourse communities (Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986; Gee, 1996). From this perspective, students need to be given maximum opportunity for authentic social interaction, not only to provide comprehensible input but also to give students practice in the kinds of communication they will later engage in outside the classroom. This can be achieved through student collaboration on authentic tasks and projects (see for example Breen, 1987; Candlin & Murphy, 1987; Long & Crookes, 1992; Prabhu, 1987) while simultaneously learning both content and language (see for example Flowerdew, 1993; Meskill, in press; Snow, 1991).
The Internet is a powerful tool for assisting a sociocognitive approach to language teaching, and it is in fact this fit of the Internet with a sociocognitive approach which largely accounts for the new-found enthusiasm for using computers in the language classroom. The Internet is a vast interactive medium which can be used in a myriad of ways, as will be illustrated below.
Computer-Mediated Communication in a Classroom
There are several different approaches for using the Internet to facilitate interaction within and across discourse communities. One way is to use online activities to foster increased opportunities for interaction within a single class. This takes place both through computer-assisted classroom discussion and through outside-of-class discussion.
Computer-assisted classroom discussion makes use of synchronous ("real-time") writing programs, such as Daedalus Interchange by Daedalus, Inc. The class meets in a networked computer lab, and students communicate through writing rather than through talking. Students type in their messages and hit a key to instantly send the message to the rest of the class. All the messages are listed chronologically on the top half of the screen and can be easily scrolled through and re-read. The entire session can later be saved and passed on to students, either in electronic form or hard copy.
Outside-of-class discussion is usually carried out using asynchronous tools, such as e-mail or conferencing systems. Special lists can be set up so that students' messages get automatically forwarded to either a small group or the whole class.
Electronic communication within a single class might be viewed as an artificial substitute for face-to-face communication. However, it has been found to have a number of beneficial features which make it a good tool for language learning. First, computer-assisted discussion tends to feature more equal participation than face-to-face discussion; teachers or a few outspoken students are less likely to dominate the floor, resulting in class discussions which are more fully collaborative (Kelm, 1992; Kern, 1995; Meskill, Swan and Frazer, 1997; Warschauer, 1996; Warschauer, 1999). Second, computer-assisted discussion allows students to better notice the input from others' messages and incorporate that input into their own messages, thus expanding opportunities for learning of new linguistic chunks (e.g., collocations, common phrases; see St. John & Cash, 1995; Warschauer, 1999). Third, computer-assisted discussion, which takes place in writing and allows more planning time than does face-to-face talk, features language which is lexically and syntactically more complex than oral talk (Warschauer, 1996). Finally, since computer based discussion can take place outside of the classroom, it provides students increased opportunities to communicate in the target language. For all these reasons, language teachers (especially but not exclusively in courses which feature writing) have found single-class computer-mediated communication projects to be beneficial.
Computer-Mediated Communication for Long Distance Exchange
Computer-mediated communication between long-distance partners offers many of the same advantages, and then some. In particular, it allows students the opportunity for target language practice in situations where such practice might otherwise be difficult. This is especially important in foreign language instruction where students might have few other opportunities for authentic target language use.
Long-distance exchange projects have been organized in a number of ways, generally using e-mail but also using Web-based conferencing systems or various types of software for synchronous chatting. The most effective exchange projects are ones that are well-integrated into the course goals and are based on purposeful investigation rather than just electronic chat (Warschauer, 1999). Such projects might involve joint exploration of culture, social conditions, film, or literature and often result in some kind of collaborative publication (for examples and discussion, see Cummins & Sayers, 1997; Sayers, 1993; Warschauer, 1995a; 1995b).
Accessing Resources and Publishing on the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web offers a vast array of resources from throughout the world. While the majority of Web pages are in English, increasing numbers exist in other commonly-taught (and some uncommonly-taught) languages, including Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Chinese. Accessing and using these pages in language education supports a sociocognitive approach by helping immerse students in discourses that extend well beyond the classroom, their immediate communities, and their language textbook. This is particularly critical for foreign language students who otherwise experience the target culture only through their instructor and select curricula. Students can use Web pages as authentic materials for conducting research on culture and current events (see for example Lixl-Purcell, 1995; Osuna & Meskill, 1998) or for gathering material for class projects and simulations (see for example Deguchi, 1995; Rosen, 1995). Students can also publish their own work on the World Wide Web, thus enabling writing for a real audience. In some cases, teachers have created in-class online newsletters or magazines that their classes have produced (see for example Jor, 1995). In other cases, teachers help their students contribute to international Web magazines which include articles from many students around the world (see for example Shetzer, 1995). And in other situations, students work together in collaborative teams internationally and then publish the results of their projects on the Web (see for example Vilmi, 1995).
One particularly creative application pairs new technologies with service learning, in which students perform an authentic service for community organizations. At a college in Hawai‘i, ESL students work in small groups to make a Web site on behalf of a community organization (see discussion in Warschauer, 1999). They interview members of the organization, gather information and documents from them, and put everything together in a coherent online package, learning both writing and presentation skills in the process.
This type of research ignored two important factors. First of all, the computer is a machine, not a method. The world of online communication is a vast new medium, comparable in some ways to books, print, or libraries. To our knowledge, no one has ever attempted to conduct research on whether the book or the library is beneficial for language learning. Seeking similar sweeping conclusions on the effects of the computer or the Internet is equally futile.
Secondly, and even more importantly, new communications technologies are part of the broader ecology of life at the turn of the century. Much of our reading, writing, and communicating is migrating from other environments (print, telephone, etc.) to the screen. In such a context, we can no longer think only about how we use technologies to teach language. We also must think about what types of language students need to learn in order to communicate effectively via computer. Whereas a generation ago, we taught foreign language students to write essays and read magazine articles, we now must (also) teach them to write e-mail messages and conduct research on the Web. This realization has sparked an approach which emphasizes the importance of new information technologies as a legitimate medium of communication in their own right rather than simply as teaching tools.
In summary, then, the advantages of using new technologies in the language classroom can only be interpreted in light of the changing goals of language education and the changing conditions in postindustrial society. Language educators now seek not only (or even principally) to teach students the rules of grammar, but rather to help them gain apprenticeship into new discourse communities. This is accomplished through creating opportunities for authentic and meaningful interaction both within and outside the classroom, and providing students the tools for their own social, cultural, and linguistic exploration. The computer is a powerful tool for this process as it allows students access to online environments of international communication. By using new technologies in the language classroom, we can better prepare students for the kinds of international cross-cultural interactions which are increasingly required for success in academic, vocational, or personal life.
What then are the potential disadvantages of using new technologies for language teaching? We focus on three aspects: investment of money, investment of time, and uncertainty of results.
Investment of Money
Uses of new technologies in the long run tend to result in higher productivity, at least in the economic sphere (see discussion in Castells, 1996). Productivity in education is certainly harder to measure, but it is not unreasonable to assume that over time new technologies will help create more effective education (bearing in mind the earlier point that the goals and nature of education are changing in the information age, thus making direct comparisons difficult). In any case, whatever results may be achieved over the long term, there are definite startup expenses related to implementing new technologies in education. For college language learning programs, such expenses usually entail hardware, software, staffing, and training for at least one networked computer laboratory where students can drop in and use assigned software and one or more networked computer laboratories where teachers can bring whole classes on an occasional or regular basis. Intelligent use of new technologies usually involves allocations of about one-third for hardware, one-third for software, and one third for staff support and training. It is often the case in poorly-funded language programs that the hardware itself comes in via a one-time grant (or through hand-me-downs from science departments), with little funding left over for staff training, maintenance, or software.
Investment of Time
Just as technologies may save money over the long term, they also may save time. But, potential long-term benefits to an institution are little consolation to an individual teacher who is spending enormous amounts of time learning constantly-changing software programs and trying to figure out the best way to use them in the classroom.
Increased demands on time are due in part to the difficulty of using new online multimedia technologies in their still-early stages (comparable, perhaps, to the early days of tuning a radio or starting a car when those machines were first invented). However, time demands are caused not only from learning how to master the technology, but also from the changing dynamics of the online classroom. As indicated earlier, new technologies create excellent opportunities for long-distance exchanges, but such exchanges can be extremely complicated in terms of coordinating goals, schedules, and plans?especially when involving teachers from different countries or educational systems. Also, another benefit of electronic communication?that it provides opportunities for student-initiated communication?can also create a time burden, as a teacher's e-mail box becomes flooded with messages from previously-reticent students.
Uncertainty of Results
As indicated earlier, there is no single predictable outcome for using computers, anymore than there is for using books or libraries. Thus teachers and institutions are expected to invest large amounts of time and money without any guarantee of achieving particular results.
Research in both the business sphere (e.g., Kling & Zmuidzinas, 1994; Zuboff, 1988) and in education (e.g, Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997; Warschauer, 1999) indicates that simply bringing new machines into an institution does little to bring about the kinds of social transformation needed to make effective use of those machines. Whether in workplaces or in schools, the natural tendency is to use new technologies in ways consistent with previous methods of organization and practice. This can often result in inefficient or even demotivating uses of computers, in which workers or students see their interpersonal connections and personal power reduced (for example, through highly automated uses of technology such as computer-based drills) rather than increased.
As discussed earlier in this chapter, new online technologies match well with newer approaches to language teaching, in which students are viewed not as empty vessels to be filled but rather as active agents collaborating in their own learning process. Yet even in situations where instructors already adhere to such a perspective, teaching in an online environment can challenge teachers' epistemologies and practices. The online world presents important new challenges, and learning how to integrate new online technologies into the classroom will likely be as long and complicated a process as doing the same has been in the business world?but made even more difficult in education by lack of dependable funding for equipment and support.
Having said all of this, we still believe that integrating new technologies should be an important goal of language programs, but a goal of which the cost and complexity should not be underestimated. The most effective technology-enhanced language programs take many years to develop and are based on much trial and error, administrative support for teacher experimentation and collaboration, and sustained, careful attention to the forms of social organization and pedagogy which accompany the use of new machines.
Examples of such programs are illustrated below.
Case Study #1: Foreign Language Instruction and Technology
Yoko Koike teaches undergraduate courses in Japanese language at Haverford, a small Quaker college in Pennsylvania. Haverford is part of the Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr tri-college consortium (see information about her courses at http://www.haverford.edu/jnse/japanese.html). Undergraduate courses in Japanese fulfill the colleges' one-year foreign language requirement. Students completing the required year may go on to advanced courses, participate in study-abroad programs, and/or continue on as East Asian Studies majors. Yoko views new technology as a means of supporting her pedagogical goals and processes and has been integrating telecommunications into her classrooms for the last several years.
Learner Population. Students in Yoko's Japanese classes come from all three of the consortium's colleges. Yoko finds the students enrolled in her Japanese classes to be highly motivated and serious students of Japanese. A good number are within the Quaker tradition, and Yoko observes in her students a heightened social consciousness and an openness to differences that help shape a positive ethos in the language classroom. She also sees her students' orientation contributing to their propensities and abilities for taking on, negotiating, and articulating complex social and political issues.
Teacher Epistemologies/Integration. One of Yoko's major goals is to help her students come to see themselves as skillful communicators in Japanese, rather than as simply learners of the language. Activities, both with and without new technologies, are fashioned to support active learner use of the target language. Central to her course is conversation for meaningful purposes in Japanese. In class, she carefully guides these conversations between and among students to enable as much learner-centered interaction as possible. For this approach to be successful, her role, the role of her students, and the goals of her curriculum are of necessity non-traditional. Nonetheless, Yoko's class is not a free-for-all: she carefully builds in a system of guidance and accountability in her assignments. Students are required to systematically report in writing on their discussions following a standard guide. Learners therefore become proficient in reflecting on their experiences and producing written summaries of their Japanese chats. The students are also assigned to engage in (and summarize in writing) similar conversations with native Japanese speaking language partners in the community. Yoko encourages her students in these conversations to be concerned less with accuracy and more with what they want to say, what is meaningful for them, and what, as she says, "comes from their hearts."
Logistics/Integration. Yoko sees technologies as potentially "noisy"; that is, learning to use them effectively can get in the way of and overshadow the true goals and processes of her communicative approach. Initially, she works hard with students to help "quiet down" the technology so that once the technology is mastered, the students can concentrate instead on communication. One of her main purposes in integrating a technology component is to expand opportunities for her students to interact with the language and culture. To these ends, she has effectively extended their conversational opportunities to include interaction with Japanese learners and native speakers from around the world.
Preliminary to students' international interchanges, Yoko trains students in the use of word processing in Japanese and in using an online Japanese-English dictionary. These training sessions and subsequent electronic communications sessions are held in the college's computer laboratory. The Japanese word processing program is particularly useful and time saving in that learners can type in a phonetic approximation and the software will supply an appropriate character. Students can then check that the desired character has been generated by comparing it to online dictionary entries. This speeds up an otherwise time-consuming process and thus facilitates communication. Yoko also notes that the process of trial and error with the phonetic approximations is a valuable language learning activity in and of itself.
Once learners are comfortable word processing in Japanese, Yoko sets up in-class online chats using the Daedalus Interchange program. She posts questions for discussion and lets the class converse on the computer by typing in and immediately sending their messages to the rest of the class. Comparing these online discussions to face-to-face conversations in the class, Yoko has noticed that using the computer allows more "reserved" students greater opportunity to actively participate, and also seems to facilitate more open discussion of controversial subjects. For example, after her class viewed a disturbing documentary about forced prostitution of Japanese women during World War II, the students sat in stunned silence. A little later, though, on the Daedalus Interchange, they freely expressed their reactions. Another Interchange assignment that was particularly effective was in conjunction with the class reading of a Japanese novel. Students were assigned to take on the role of characters from the novel and conclude a conversation which had been begun, but not completed, in the novel.
Though students are not evaluated on the basis of their contributions to these discussions, Yoko analyzes the record of these conversations to note students' progress and language difficulties, and then uses this information to provide remediation and to tailor future class activities.
Once students are comfortable communicating in Japanese
via the computer, Yoko introduces her students to conversation partners
in Japan. The students in Japan and Pennsylvania first "meet" each other
through Internet-based audio-video conferencing. They are then assigned
to collaborate on various projects, such as the following:
Evaluation. Yoko reports that students write much more via computer than they otherwise would with pen and paper, and they also attend closely to the messages they read and write since they are part of meaningful communication. According to Yoko, the computer-based collaborative activities encourage a great deal of listening, speaking, reading, writing that are critical for students' mastery of Japanese, and they also help her students integrate issues of language and culture. As is true to her belief about learning, her students become active users of the language by virtue of her careful planning and implementation of these extensive and motivating communicative opportunities.
Case Study #2: ESL Instruction and Technology
Douglas Mills, Computer Assisted Language Learning Coordinator for the Intensive English Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne has been working to implement and integrate technologies for ESL instruction since 1992 (see information on his work at http://deil.lang.uiuc.edu/elci/). The Computer Assisted Language Learning Center assists Institute instructors in examining technologies in light of individual needs, interests, instructional styles, and pedagogical possibilities and helps to design and implement computer-based classes accordingly. For the past two years, the Institute has offered a program of computer-based language learning sections for students in their intensive, integrated language skills program.
Learner Population. The student body of the Intensive English Program at the University of Illinois is comprised of a mix of pre-university students seeking to gain academic skills and/or prepare for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and those already enrolled in international universities who want a temporary study-abroad experience in an English speaking country. Both types of learners are seeking to improve their skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing English for academic and professional purposes. The approximately 150 ESL students in the Institute represent a broad range of interests and experiences. Many are drawn to learning English through technology by virtue of their professional and/or academic interest in computing and telecommunications. Others recognize computer and telecommunications knowledge as crucial to their broader professional goals. The Institute's program of intensive study includes, for those at the top two levels of English proficiency, the opportunity to select courses in the English Language through Computers and Internet Project (ELCI). Such courses have consistently been a very popular and well-received component of the ESL curriculum.
Teaching Epistemologies/Integration. Teachers in the Intensive English Program are chiefly Master's candidates in the University's Master's in TESOL (Teaching/Teachers?? of English to Speakers of Other Languages) program who teach under the supervision of full-time staff and faculty. . The bent of their academic training in TESOL is the eclecticism representative of what is often called communicative language teaching . One principle of communicative language teaching is that instructional design and implementation should carefully take into account the needs and interests of learners. This tenet is strictly adhered to within the Intensive English Program, with content, materials, and methods selected, designed, and used according to learner interests and needs. There is also carefully crafted skills integration in teaching and activities so that learners practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening to English for a variety of real and engaging purposes. Computers and the Internet represent for the Center a powerful tool for these purposes.
Much teacher autonomy is encouraged and supported in the computer-based curriculum development process. Instructors are supplied with training and templated instructional routines to which they can fit their own objectives, content, and activities. In addition to developing the actual online curriculum, teachers also develop a paper-based course packet to accompany the courses they design. They essentially have free reign to shape the course as they see best, do so within the communicative framework that guides their professional development as graduate students, and exercise a great deal of initiative.
Logistics. The English Language through Computers and Internet courses are conducted twice weekly in a networked computer laboratory. Instructors design and facilitate task-based activities that require learners to read, write, listen, and speak in English. The content through which students improve their skills is computers and the Internet. Activities involve speaking, listening, reading, and writing with, around, and about technology. Task-based exercises are carried out online individually or collaboratively in the computer laboratory. Such tasks might focus on controversial topics regarding telecommunications (e.g., students' conduct online research on policies and practices related to the Internet) or might focus on development of practical skills (e.g., students learn and teach their peers how to cut and paste images from the Web). In short, activities require learners to use computers and the Internet to accomplish concrete, authentic tasks using English as the medium.
One typical assignment involves having students join a chat site to argue the merits of a controversial topic, such as bilingualism. The students participate in extended online discussions, and then report back on these discussions to the class. Additionally, students' work is made public through Web sites, and students' classmates and teachers later have the opportunity to provide feedback on these published works. In some cases students are assigned joint editorial work on a Web essay or multimedia presentation. Finally, students make oral presentations of their technology projects to their classmates, and their works are then showcased at an end-of-semester open house attended by Institute students, teachers, and others.
Evaluation. Students participating in these language-through-technology courses have responded very positively to both the content and methods of these classes. At the end of the term when formally asked whether these courses had met their expectations, the vast majority of students have responded favorably. However, it is interesting to note that approximately one half of these same respondents did not agree that the course contributed a great deal to the improvement of their English skills. The technology coordinator feels this is due to the students' expectations and notions of how one best learns another language. If learners come from instructional cultures that adhere to a strictly grammar-based, teacher-centered method of language instruction, they may be more reluctant to accept task-based, learner-centered approaches as contributing to their language acquisition (even when they express satisfaction with how a course is taught). Teachers in the program, who have ongoing opportunities to assess language development through observing the process and product of students' online, oral, and written work, have felt that the use of technology has been highly advantageous, both for helping improve students' general language abilities and especially for assisting students learn the kind of Internet-based English communication and research skills increasingly necessary for academic and professional success.
Case Study #3: Bilingual Instruction and Technology
Orlando Kelm, University of Texas, Austin, conducts courses in Spanish and Portuguese in conjunction with his University's Business Program (for information on his courses, see http://www.sp.utexas.edu/ork/kelm.html). These courses are designed for undergraduates who are dual majors in Spanish and Business and for MBA candidates who opt for a language track for their degree program. Orlando has found that the integration of technologies into this curriculum allows his students to actively engage in language use in ways that were not previously possible.
Learner Population. Undergraduates who elect a dual major in Business and Spanish must complete a minimum of three Business-based courses that are taught in Spanish, thereby learning business concepts and the target language associated with them at the same time. The majority of students who take these courses are from homes where Spanish spoken. Other students are native English speakers who have studied Spanish in school. Those who opt for the language track version for their graduate study take at least three courses for which the target language is taught exclusively through the content of Business. As such, they become skilled not only as business professionals, but as bilingual business professionals.
Teacher Epistemology/Integration. One of Orlando's most challenging courses is an advanced undergraduate Spanish grammar and composition class designated specifically for business majors . Students who take this course represent a wide range of ability levels. Using a lock-step, teacher- and text-centered approach with such a group is thus not a satisfactory option. Instead, Orlando has designed the course in such a way that language, content, and materials are sufficiently flexible and student-directed to meet the needs of all students in the course. Technology plays a key supporting role.
Design of the Advanced Grammar and Composition course for Business majors is very much driven by a learner-centered approach to language instruction. The instructor adheres to the notion that students learn language best when they take on very active roles in engaging in and shaping their own learning processes. This is a particularly critical issue at the advanced level where there is great variation in learner needs and abilities. Orlando sees his preparation of and provision for the multiple resources he develops and makes accessible to his students via the Internet as an integral aspect of motivating and supporting an active and engaged language learner. Whereas Web-based assignments, resources, and online tools comprise the key material with which the course's major activities and assignments are undertaken, it is the dialogic use of the target language in the classroom that forms the core of this language-through-content curriculum. Technologies serve to feed and support these communicative processes.
Orlando's beliefs about teaching and learning with technologies are best summed up by his statement, "It's not so much what I do with technology, but what technology helps me get the students to do. That is what results in learning."
Logistics. Students in the Advanced Grammar and Composition course are responsible for four major assignments/components. Each of these components is supported by Web-based materials prepared by the instructor, and students' oral presentations and written communication is in Spanish.
1. Excel Assignment: Students are assigned
business-related problems that entail using several database and statistical
functions of Microsoft Excel. Spanish definitions, explanations, and examples
of various functions of the software, links to help in both English and
Spanish, and problems learners are required to solve are all posted on
the course Web page. In addition, Orlando posts a slide presentation of
a correct solution to the problem as a model and guide for students to
reference. His rationale for providing a correct solution is that the exercise
is a language exercise, not a business test. The major objective
is for his students to acquire structures and vocabulary related to business
concepts, not to 'get a right answer'.
Students are responsible for a total of twelve of these problems during the course of the semester. An example problem would be for students to calculate the depreciation of factory machinery over a given period of time. The problem is discussed by the entire group in class. Once a week the class meets in the computer laboratory, and students are put in rotating pairs to discuss these problems and the solutions they have devised. Their culminating assignment for each problem is to write the instructor a formal business memo in the role of a company employee that describes the problem, provides needed data, and makes recommendations for future action. The memo must make use of relevant business and technical vocabulary. It is a realistic document that both practices and demonstrates students' grammar and composition abilities in Spanish.
2. Video-Assisted Oral Presentations: The second Web-based assignment for this course is an oral presentation students are required to make based on 15-20 short articles on business issues. For each of these articles, a videoclip of a native speaker of Spanish discussing its content is made available on the course Web page as well as on a CD-ROM. These video clips serve as models for students' own oral presentations. In addition, the accompanying transcripts of the video sequences serve as one of the course's primary language texts; the class analyzes these transcripts line by line to investigate grammar and vocabulary in use.
3. Business Case Study and Grammar Portfolio: Two additional assignments round out this demanding course. Students read, discuss, and write about an online business case study, and they create grammar portfolios in which examples of structures must be provided and analyzed. Many of these examples are taken from the more than 500 video clips of Spanish speakers that Orlando makes available via the Web.
Evaluation. Orlando has been teaching the Advanced Grammar and Composition course for Business majors for two years. Response from participating students has been overwhelmingly positive. They feel the integration of technologies supports real models and contexts through which they can actively improve their listening, speaking, vocabulary, and writing abilities. Orlando's own assessment of the course is equally positive, and he is enthusiastic about continuing to reshape the content and processes of his teaching in light of the new possibilities that information technologies present.
Yet, when appropriately implemented, new technologies provide the means to help reshape both the content and processes of language education. As seen from the above three case studies, appropriate use of new technologies allows for a more thorough integration of language, content, and culture than ever before and provides students with unprecedented opportunities for autonomous learning. Computer technologies not only help teachers and students to transcend linguistic, geographical, and time barriers but also to build bridges between bilingual, ESL, and foreign language programs. The use of new technologies allows students to engage in the types of online communication and research which will be paramount for success in their academic and professional pursuits.
In addition to the examples given in this chapter, there are many other uses of computer technologies in second language teaching, learning, and research. These include tracking the learning process of individual students (Noblitt & Bland, 1991), preparing and training language teachers (see Chapter 14 of this volume), and testing language learners (Brown 1998). Unfortunately, it is not possible to cover all of these topics in depth within one chapter.
In conclusion, the key to successful use of technology in language teaching lies not in hardware or software but in "humanware"?our human capacity as teachers to plan, design, and implement effective educational activity. Language learning is an act of creativity, imagination, exploration, expression, construction, and profound social and cultural collaboration. If we use computers to fully humanize and enhance this act, rather than to try to automate it, we can help bring out the best that human and machine have to offer.
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